Response to the Student Task Force on sexual assault

May 9, 2014

Dear Members of the Student Task Force,

I know I speak for others in the senior administration at Brown when I offer thanks for the carefully researched and comprehensive list of recommendations you have developed, aimed at strengthening Brown’s approach to dealing with sexual assault. We share your goal of ending rape on our campus, and we agree that there should be no tolerance of sexual assault or sexual harassment at Brown.

I have stated my intention to position Brown as a national leader in the area of prevention, advocacy, and response to issues of sexual assault. Being successful will require deliberate and meaningful collaboration between the administration, students, faculty, staff and the broader community.

The work you have done will be extremely valuable as we launch a review of our policies and procedures related to sexual assault. As you know, the recent BUCC meeting discussion led to the decision to accelerate the planned review of the Code of Conduct as it related to sexual misconduct, and to nest this review in a broader assessment of our policies and programs around prevention, counseling and advocacy. The Brown University Task Force on Sexual Assault, which will include significant student representation and input, will begin its work in earnest in fall 2014. Your work, combined with the recent White House report and the assessment of national experts we will retain this summer, will ensure that the Task Force will have substantial resources as they develop recommendations to strengthen our polices, procedures and practices.

We are taking a number of immediate steps that align with your recommendations. Specifically, we will:

  • Hire a Title IX Coordinator whose responsibility it will be to monitor compliance with federal regulations and to ensure that we are providing exceptional support to students. We will post this position and plan to hire someone by the end of the summer.
  • Provide additional funding for prevention and education efforts. Work will begin over the summer to enhance orientation programs (and “re-orientation” programs) and provide additional training to staff, public safety officers, peer educators, and faculty in leadership positions within departments.
  • Collaborate with other universities to develop a campus climate survey that measures the incidence of sexual violence and student perceptions about assault. The White House report recommends that this survey be conducted in the winter or spring of each academic year.

Beyond these initiatives, additional resources have been committed to improve our capacity to meet the needs of our diverse population, including hiring additional staff in Psychological Services (with special attention to diversity) and a men's health coordinator. We expect the external experts and the Task Force to provide a fine-grained assessment of other areas in which additional staffing may be needed, and where strengthened partnerships with community organizations may be beneficial. I agree that, as we move forward, it will be important to put systems in place that collect feedback from students on the effectiveness of our policies and programs.

Many of your recommendations concern important issues such as the length of sanctions, the definition of consent, the structure of the appeals process, sanctions for violating no-contact orders, systems for staff and faculty accountability, and the timeline for Code of Conduct Hearings. These are precisely the issues I expect the Task Force to consider, with substantial input from the Brown community. I anticipate that the public discussion of these issues next fall will educate members of the community about the issue of sexual assault, help to establish new norms of behavior on campus, and ensure that there are no unintended consequences in adopting new policies. For this reason, I do not want to get ahead of the Task Force by accepting recommendations on these issues, however reasonable, before the fall.

As we move forward, I hope that your Student Task Force remains engaged in the work it has started. To maintain momentum, we would like to hire two students over the summer who will work with the external experts, help us prepare for the fall, and facilitate communication between the administration and students during the summer months. These positions are now posted on the student employment website.

Thanks again for your work on this important issue. I will post this letter to the Office of the President website, and hope that you will post it to your Brown Imagine Rape Zero Facebook site and distribute it via your listserv. I look forward to collaborating with you.

Sincerely,

Christina H. Paxson

Cc: Russell Carey, Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy
Michele Cyr, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Alpert Medical School
Margaret Klawunn, Vice President for Campus Life and Interim Dean of the College
Mark Schlissel, Provost
J. Allen Ward, Senior Associate Dean for Student Life